Are We All Getting Smarter? Can We Credit Pop Culture?

from the so-they-say dept

In what appears to be yet another excerpt from Steven Johnson's recently released book, Everything Bad Is Good for You: How Today's Popular Culture Is Actually Making Us Smarter, Johnson defends the idea that all of this pop culture is making us smarter by pointing to evidence that people seem to keep getting smarter, without any other real explanation for why it could be happening. It's hardly scientific (and, it anything, reading the piece, it clearly is leading people to a certain conclusion, which isn't necessarily the only explanation). Still, it is an interesting and fun read. Another possible explanation isn't that it's pop culture that's making us all smarter, but the simple combination of two things: (1) Every generation has advanced, and we build our overall knowledge based on what has been learned in the past. So, the first electric engine was a big deal, but now, any kid can learn how to build an electric engine with simple instructions. So, in some sense, we're able, as a society, to bank all of the advancements of history (for more on this, see Andy Kessler's new book, as well). (2) The growth of technology has allowed people to speed up learning in certain areas. Johnson sort of notes this, by pointing out that learning to program your VCR is a knowledge task that helps understand other things, but it goes much further than that. We don't have to spend all of our time doing basic math, because we have calculators and computers -- so we can "outsource" some of the effort from our brains to focus on more complex problems. So, while it's a nice idea that pop culture is making us smarter, it seems like there could be plenty of other explanations as well.


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  1.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 4th, 2005 @ 1:21pm

    Your grammar is confusing

    Here is a translation:
    Steven Johnson recently released a book titled Everything Bad Is Good for You: How Today's Popular Culture Is Actually Making Us Smarter. In what appears to be (yet another) excerpt from that book, Johnson defends the idea that all of this pop culture is making us smarter. Essentially he points to evidence that people seem to keep getting smarter without any other real explanation for why it could be happening. It's hardly scientific. If anything, this excerpt is clearly leading people to a certain conclusion, which is not necessarily the only explanation. Still, it is an interesting and fun read. Another possible explanation for our increase in intelligence consists of the simple combination of two things.
    First of all, every generation surpasses its predecessor in knowledge by building on the lessons of the past. So, the first electric engine was a big deal, but now, any kid can learn how to build an electric engine with simple instructions. So, in some sense, we're able, as a society, to bank all of the advancements of history. For more on this, see Andy Kessler's new book as well.
    Secondly, the growth of technology has allowed people to speed up learning in certain areas. Johnson sort of notes this, by pointing out that learning to program your VCR is a knowledge task that helps understand other things. But the nature of this speed increase is more than that. We don't have to spend all of our time doing basic math, because we have calculators and computers -- so we can "outsource" some of the effort from our brains to focus on more complex problems.
    So, while it's an interesting idea that pop culture is making us smarter, in view of this off-the-cuff explanation it seems like there could be several other plausible explanations.

     

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  2.  
    identicon
    come on, May 4th, 2005 @ 2:49pm

    People are as stupid as ever

    IQ is bullshit. Don't be fooled into thinking that because we drive cars and play with electronic toys that we're any smarter than people were five thousand years ago. (see religion)

    Steven Johnson is just another dumbass hack with no real insight, trying to make a buck by telling idiots what they want to hear.

     

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  3.  
    identicon
    Crazoo, Mar 3rd, 2006 @ 11:07pm

    No Subject Given

    Yes we may be good at using technology and multi tasking, but that doesn't mean we're any more smarter now than we were 100 years ago.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4.  
    identicon
    cakec, Jun 10th, 2009 @ 9:34am

    I personally think that people in general are smarter now than they were before because we have a greater understanding of the world around us.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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